This set of literary prejudices keeps me from wasting too much time in the bookstore's genre sections; I read a few pages at the beginning, flip the book over, and read the ending; sometimes I check random pages in the middle if necessary, but it seldom is. If I see how it all hangs together from that cursory flip-through, it's not interesting enough to read. ** If on the other hand the samples seem to come from different (but all well written by the same author) books, I'm on board.
tight without being linear (The Postman Always Rings Twice, Tom Jones, The Last Good Kiss, Appointment in Samarra, A Prayer for Owen Meany, The Godfather, The Three Musketeers, The Hanging Garden)
loose and yet quite linear (Wreck-It Ralph, the Iliad, Scaramouche, 'Salem's Lot, The Princess Bride, Butterfield 8, Rabbit, Run, A Tale of Two Cities, Shardik, Downbelow Station).
tight and linear (The Maltese Falcon, Heart of Darkness, Of Mice and Men, Merchanter’s Luck, The Great Gatsby)
loose and non-linear (A Confederacy of Dunces, Gone with the Wind, The Catcher in the Rye, Look Homeward Angel, Huckleberry Finn, The Dispossessed, From Here to Eternity, David Copperfield, Doctor Zhivago, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Robber Bride, The Cider House Rules, Lord Jim, The Odyssey, The Good Soldier). I suspect the ease with which I came up with so many examples of that last category reveals where my heart really is as a reader. (And I just realized that it wouldn’t take long to finish up an essay for The Book Doctor’s Little Black Bag on this very subject).
More people seem to see this in a context of hiking—a view or a fishing stream you take a bus to is not the same thing as one you climbed or hiked to—or getting to know a neighborhood: Google directions are great if you just want to get to the supermarket and back, but asking directions allows you to meet several of your neighbors and hear how they interpret the neighborhood’s topology; you save time with Google, you know more with your neighbors.